They are offensive, manipulative and cruel. But this week they have a point. In-N-Out is opening in Utah.
Residents of Southern California, for all they have to put up with to maintain a decent way of life – riots, fires, overcrowding, freeway chases, Britney, earthquakes, the Clippers – always have In-N-Out to fall back on. These establishments are so rare, so special for the rest of the country that I have friends who save their receipts from their visits, as though the yellowing paper still holds a last gasp of grease to coat the taste buds of the mind.
The food is superb. But what has always set In-N-Out apart is its culture: cool without being effete, accessible to all but full of off-the-menu secrets for those in the know, famously decent to their employees and most critically, always responsible enough to value quality over quantity. In-N-Out staunchly refuses to meet clamoring national and international demand, instead centering itself in SoCal with a few outposts in NorCal, Vegas and Arizona – just far enough away so they don’t have to freeze their meat to get it there.
In-N-Out remains special to those whose visits are few and a happy part of daily life for those who know how lucky they are to score a 3x3 at 11:45 on a Saturday night. In-N-Out has held true to its principles and stood, uncorrupted, since 1948.
Yet even amidst the reds, yellows and whites of the limitless menu of four items, nothing lasts forever. Co-founder Esther Snyder died in 2006, and the company sunk into an ugly dispute over embezzlement and plans to take the chain national.
The first restaurant in Utah is going to open in Washington City this spring. This alone doesn’t mean things are going to change. But I have been to Utah, and I have been to In-N-Out.
I’m sure the employees will still be treated with uncommon respect, the meat will never see the inside of a freezer and someone will be good enough to let slip to the uninitiated the secrets of the hidden menu. But, there’s more to In-N-Out than just the food, and the further you get from the beaches and barrios, drive-thrus of low-riding Escalades and sodas spilled on PCH turns, the more you leave behind.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”